Mapping Out the Outdoors

With more than 750,000 acres of state parks, forests and natural areas, New Jersey is the perfect place to experience a variety of outdoor activities. Explore the outdoors, take a canoe ride, go fishing and camp under the stars in the natural beauty of the Garden State.

The Garden State is known for more than that just our sandy beaches and fresh produce. New Jersey delivers a great diversity of outdoor experiences. There are more than 750,000 acres of State Forests, Parks, Natural Areas and Wildlife Management Areas that offer a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities. These locations include camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hunting and even rock-hunting.

While the new year is just kicking off, you can start gearing up now for your spring and summer trips. If you are up early on New Year's Day, take part in the First Day Hikes, sponsored by the New Jersey State Park Service and Friends. As part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative, New Jersey hosts 23 hikes, walks and interpretive tours; two bike rides; and a horseback ride at various locations throughout the state. It's a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, learn some local history and welcome the New Year with friends and family.

Your second stop, the Garden State Outdoor Sports Show takes place at the New Jersey Convention Expo Center in Edison in early January. Some of the exhibitors have included The Fisherman, Grandt Rods, Hunting Legends and Targeteers Archery. Experts Mike Iaconelli, Pete Gluszek and Butch Meilinger have made appearances, and Mark "Uncle Millie" Mills hosted a Wild Game Hot Sauce Challenge and cooking demo. Early ticket purchases are available online with a free one-year subscription to Field & Stream. Or tickets can be purchased at the door. This show gives you an opportunity to look at the latest equipment and find some of New Jersey's best outdoor locations.

Up next is the Annual New Jersey RV Camping Show, also in Edison at the New Jersey Convention Expo Center in mid-January. The show débuts new RVs and features seminars where you can learn about the joys of travel in a recreational vehicle. Bernie Jwaszewski will share his travel planning tips on living and enjoying the RV life without driving yourself to the poor house. Discounted tickets are available online or available at the door.

Packing up the whole family for a road trip can be as simple as 1-2-3. Picking up the rear is the Progressive Atlantic City Boat Show at the Atlantic City Convention Center in early February. You can meet Dave Carraro, the boat captain from National Geographic Channel's show Wicked Tuna. American Fly Fishing Schools give free daily seminars to learn about fly fishing, kayaking and other paddle sports. There is even a Kids Fly Casting Competition. Catch a workshop on boat and motor maintenance, see the latest Miss GEICO offshore racing boat and test out your boating skill on the boating simulator. Discounted tickets are available online or available at the door. This boat show is sure to be a big hit for the whole family.

The great outdoor life in New Jersey is open to every possibility. New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection lists all of the state parks with camping locations. For more information on the fishing and hunting seasons, visit New Jersey's Division of Fish and Wildlife. If you are bringing a boat, visit Go Boating NJ for information on marinas and safety.